Rising at the crack of dawn I raced down the stairs into the kitchen to find my
grandmother cooking donuts! That remains one of my fondest memories of the many
summers spent at grandmother’s. The smell of the freshly cooked sugar or
glazed donuts was enough to drive anyone out of their deep sleep. The recently
made eggs and bacon, along with fresh squeezed orange juice, gave us the needed
energy to go out and start our daily routine of chores. As I remained the
youngest of the many of my cousins at the farm that summer, my tasks included
feeding the cats, helping with dishes, and pretty much trying to stay out of as
much trouble as I possibly could. My grandmother taught me many valuable lessons
those summers about life, including humanity, laughter, strength, and most
importantly the importance of family. Looking back at the all too short of a
time I got to spend with my grandmother, she taught me some of the most valuable
morals that I carry with me still today. One of the toughest lessons that I had
to deal with was the death of some of my most loved animals. When lambing season
came around, there were some very difficult decisions that had to be made.

Sometimes, throughout the process of lambing, things go wrong. I remember losing
my favorite ewe Breeze to a breach birth during lambing season. Through her
death we did come out with two beautiful lambs; which we named after her in her
memory. Decisions were tough but they had to be made in order to save the life
of either the ewe or the lamb. At the time they were not decisions that I
believed were acceptable. Now looking back, they are decisions I would never
want to make. Don’t get me wrong, I cope with death fine when it comes to
animals that are raised for meat, such as cattle or chicken. In fact, one of my
favorite meals is chicken. My grandma raised chickens and butchered them herself
whenever a dish called for the delectable birds. I remember specifically her
walking to the chicken coop and grabbing one of the unlucky chickens by the
feet. She then walked over to the worn beat up shed were she would sit down on a
dirty old stool next to a huge stump of what used to be a tree. Quietly and
swiftly, she’d place the helpless chicken across the stump placing the neck
outstretched. Then, with one quick movement of a hatchet, the head of the
chicken would roll to the ground. She would stand up and set the body of the
chicken on the ground and watch, as we kids would scramble to catch a headless
chicken. The chicken would run every which way, providing us with a brief moment
of chaos as we scrambled to catch it. My grandmother would laugh for hours
recalling all the different techniques that we tried to catch this headless
chicken. It was one moment in the summer that really brought every one together.

My grandmother wasn’t all laughs; she’d had her set backs, too. She lost her
husband, my grandpa, when my dad was a senior in college. My grandpa died of a
heart attack on Christmas Day, which ironically is my dad’s birthday. My dad
and mom, who were engaged at the time, rushed him to the Madison emergency room.

The distance ended up being too great, as my grandpa died in the car. My
grandmother went on running the farm by herself another ten years before her
death. It took every inch of her soul to keep going after the death of her
husband, but during that time she helped raise all thirty-two of her
grandchildren by keeping us on the farm whenever we weren’t in school. Her
example, back in my earlier years, remains the source of most of my strength
that I have today. Her strength was not the most important thing to my
grandmother. The most valuable possession that she had was her family. She loved
her family more than anything and spent every waking moment with them. She’d
send for her grandchildren whenever there was a moment’s break from our
educations. Raising us was a breeze, she’d always say, compared to raising her
own eight children. Playing with us was another of her favorite things; whether
it be, bottle-feeding orphaned lambs or picking apples for fresh pies that
night, she never passed up an opportunity to play with us. The family always
gave back to